Second Coming: Chapter 2
That day I managed a few more words with the others, as well as Joseph himself. As the office was still a mess- his words, not mine- he offered to let me work the rest of the week at home, leaving me with his personal phone number and a promise that I would have even my own desk space come the following Monday. I left with a nod and only a slightly more refined set of ideas for the direction in which The Pastor’s campaign would go.
I arrived back to the apartment late afternoon. I was greeted, or rather, acknowledged, by my roommate, in his room staring expectedly at the dead center of his two computer screens, playing some sort of game. It was about dinner time, likely stirred in hunger by the smell of my food cooking, that he came out of his room to finally exchange words with me. “That new job, is it good, you think?”
I looked up from my pan of chicken thighs braising to respond. “It’s not bad.”
Steven was nodding, leaned halfway into the open fridge, scanning the vague contents. A previous partner of mine had once said that the man was one energy drink crash away from sleeping like Rip Van Winkle for a decade or more. He wasn’t a bad guy, but always seemed to find himself getting dismissed from jobs for missing call times- sleeping in, of course. A video production agent he called himself. He did have the expensive camera gear and editing rig to show for such a title, but I think in the end, both the gear, as well as his rent, were being payed for by his parents. Whatever the case was, he wasn’t messy, excessively noisy, or into any sort of drugs, so I really had no complaints.
Steven paced and stared at his partial reflection in the window. He looked to me in a way that seemed to suggest his desire for my cooking, but something else came out instead. “Well, do you think he has a chance, to get elected?”
I hummed. “To be honest, I don’t know.” I replied, tasting the sauce off the wooden spoon. “He’s not a bad guy, but he’s lacking in the political field. I mean, that’s what I’m there for, obviously. I could see us attracting the view of some of our delegates if we’re able to get enough publicity. Well, if we don’t make it in the primary, at least I’ll have a bit more on my resume. There will be other opportunities to catch, especially during a year like this.”
Steven slapped the back of his hand. “Publicity, huh? Well, since you mentioned a resume…”
I see. I turned down the heat on the burner and gave the meat one last push with the spatula. “You’re wondering if he would hire someone like you?” I scanned his hopeful-yet-slightly-dejected visage. “Sorry, I mean, you’d be interested in a job there?”
Steven turned on his heel and wandered out to the living room, his voice echoing about the meager space. “Well, not if he’s going to drop out in a couple months. How many of those delegate folks does he have to get?”
“Well, depends on how much the RNC allocates here in Florida. That’s the first big hurdle. After that, he has to worry about how many he earns elsewhere.”
Steven crossed his arms in his normal tuned-out look. “Hmm. Well, he does have you, like you said. But I bet he could use someone like me, too.”
I laughed. “Hah, well, he’s also got his wife and daughter helping out with the campaign trail too. Not to mention a whole parish of people supporting him.”
“Ugh.” Steven huffed at the mention of anything theistic. “And how many of those people can put together a crushing compilation taking apart the flaws of their competitors?”
I shook my head and took down a plate for my chicken. “I’ve told you, I hate that ad-hominem bullshit.”
Steven stomped up to the kitchen doorway and leaned heavily on the frame. “Come on man, just ask him. Can’t hurt, can it, to see if he needs some video production for… whatever you guys are gonna do? It’s… kind of been a while since my last gig, and my pops is getting on my case, you know?”
I sighed. “Fine. When I head in there again Monday, I’ll ask him.”
Steven responded with a loud smack to the wood surround. “Good man.”
I looked back as he began his return to the sanctuary of his room and the glow of his monitors. “Print me out a resume or something. Oh, and make sure you have a button-up washed in case he does want you to come in.”
At the beginning of the new week, I returned to the office, this time with a big binder of notes and printouts of demographics and districts and more that I had prepared in the days working at home. Walking through the door, I was met with the wife sitting at a desk guarding entrance into the rear of the office space. “There’s our boy,” Sharon said with a clap of her hands. Her space was already decorated with sticky-notes, a mason jar of glittery pens and pencils, and a few short, untouched candles. “Joseph, he’s come back to us.”
“I heard the door,” The man himself called out from the segregated office to the right of the secretary-style desk. Joseph trotted out, his hand ready to take and shake my own. I forced the heavy binder under my arm and reciprocated. “Ah, I see you’ve been at work.”
“Yes, a bit.”
Shoving his hands in the pockets of his slacks, he pulled me along with a nudge of his head to the back reaches of the office. Behind Sharon’s area was a larger desk, something of the sort jumbled together out of a flat-pack box, empty and waiting with a simple rolling chair. “As promised, your own space here. Feel free to use it as you like.”
“Thank you, sir.” I replied humbly, setting down the binder. I held at the back of the chair, pondering whether or not to symbolically take the seat and claim the spot as my own.
“You can thank Hank for putting these together for us.” Joseph spoke up. “Oh, we’ve got a couple of those desktop computers, too, in the back, but none of us are too sure on getting all the bits plugged in. You wouldn’t happen to know about that stuff?”
I glanced to the side wall in search of an electrical plug. “I’m usually using a laptop, but I don’t think it’s all that hard…”
Joseph planted a heavy hand on my back. “Good, good, all you young folks are always using that technology, so it’s good to have you around. Oh ho, not that we’d be demoting you from campaign manager to IT or what they call it. Now, you’ve got some more stuff for me to look at, it seems?”
I smacked the clear cover of the binder, inside which there was a printed cover with the title ‘Campaign Overview- Joseph Cummings.’ “Just a bit, so far, but we can go over the basics and out first steps.”
Joseph nodded and began back to his office. Inside the space was a tripod with a phone mount attached, pointing to the plain back wall behind his desk, decorated only with the simple crucifix. “Filming something?” I asked.
“Ah, well, sort of.” Joseph said, moving the camera stand out of the way of the visitor’s chairs. “I conducted my sermon yesterday morning live to the folks back at home. They can see me on a big projector inside my church back at home. The daughter helped me a little bit with getting things set up here, at least. Too bad the techy guy couldn’t come out with us.”
“Wonderful.” I said hopefully. “Getting yourself out there is half the battle, politically speaking.”
“You are the expert.” Joseph granted, sorting the rest of his things before taking a seat at his desk. “Now, as for the things you’ve prepared… how do we bring it to Washington?”
“Hah.” I forced out a laugh, reacting to what I hoped was optimistic humor. Joseph adjusted his posture and continued to stare. “Uh, well, a platform is big. What you stand for, basically. Obviously, Christian values will bring you a long way, especially in our parts, but I want to workshop some other stances- economics, immigration, foreign policy.”
Joseph’s face went from a smile to a glassy-eyed stare into my own eyes. “You’re right. Yes, Joseph, remember what you’re aiming for.” He said to himself, drumming fingers on the top of his desk.
I smiled and nodded. “Well, luckily, I’ve already collected some data that will make things easier.” I said, opening up my binder.
“As I would have thought, good man.”
“It’s expected Randy Caine is going to announce his bid, as well, soon.”
At the mention of the name, Joseph’s face immediately went a shade of sour I would have never imagined seeing. “That man is a heathen.” If such a term was in my vocabulary, I likely would have used it too. Caine was the vice president of the incumbent, and was likely going to run on his own. While seemingly well liked, there was rumor that the man was caught cheating on his wife with a staffer, a piece of news corroborated by the fact that he and his wife had not been seen in each other’s company any time of recent.
“Well,” I said, leaning back in the doughy chair, “We know what he stands for politically. The constituents up north where he’s from aren’t too politically dissimilar, either. All we have to do is poll better than him on said issues, and we shouldn’t have too much trouble in the primary this coming February.”
“Yeah.” Joseph sat up, his head nodding up and down. “Yeah, we’ll have to do that. I don’t want to see that man as president.”
“Of course not,” I said, forcing myself up as best I could. “Though, there’s still quite a bit of work to get in before then, of course.”
“Of course.” Joseph parroted.
I smiled and nodded. “Now, the convention is going to be the most important thing to focus on as far as local events go. With what I’ve seen so far, I don’t see us having much of a problem with the panhandle districts. The next move is securing support from the south; as far as funding goes, supporters there are a prime source of income.”
Joseph sighed and rubbed on his chin, scratching the freshly sheared whiskers. “Money, huh?”
“I’m a simple man, Terrence.” Joseph spoke up, his eyes fixed to his desk. “Christ himself was just a simple carpenter, ya know? The more I can build this campaign on the strength of my own two hands, the better. I… understand that I need a certain amount of income, but all that money from whoever those rich mansion-dwelling patricians are is maybe not the way I’d wish to proceed. You understand, right, boy?”
“Of… of course.” I cleared my throat and flipped through to another page of my binder. “Yes, we’ll proceed in a proper, organic matter.”
Joseph nodded before his eyes dragged their way up past me and to the door at my back. I glanced in the direction where Sharon was waiting. “Yes, my love?”
“I just thought I’d let you know that the mayor will be here in fifteen minutes.” She said carefully, standing halfway out the door.
I perked up and leaned on the back of the chair. “Did I hear that right? The mayor? Of Tallahassee?”
I caught Joseph winking at me. “You’re not the only one who’s been busy at work here, Terrence. I’ll be ready, Sharon. Now, I’ll give you a bit of time to get situated- and perhaps I’ll introduce you, if you’re okay with that?”
Between then and the promised arrival of the mayor, I had managed to unpack the fresh computer that was offered to me at my desk space. As I fiddled with the wires through the pre-cut hole in the cheap, wooden surface, I heard the door creak open. Sharon was, expectedly, on her feet to greet the man, a familiar fellow if nothing else. I stood stiffly in the chance he would send a glance my way, but his attention was taken up readily by Joseph himself.
“Mayor Malcolm,” I heard my new boss greet him.
“Mr. Cummings, The Pastor himself.” The guest reciprocated.
“Come in, have a seat-” Their exchange dissipated into the side office space.
“The Pastor…” I said to myself under my breath. “That has a ring to it…”